Jerelyn Seth, New Hope

Nominated by Sarah Wein, St. Paul

As the parent of two young sons in day care, I find news about challenges within the child care industry due to the pandemic feels closer to home than anything else. My husband and I watch day in and day out how our sons' teachers and all of the day-care staff work hard to bring love, quality care and normalcy despite the challenges thrown at them. At the helm of this great team is Jerelyn Seth, program director for the St. Paul Midway YMCA Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). This is a woman whose calmness, perspective, strength, respect, joy and determination have carried all of the staff, kids and families forward. She has had to navigate being supportive of individual family needs while balancing the safety of everyone under her care. She has continued to make the Midway ECLC a welcoming place, weathering changes in direction as new knowledge surfaces and rules are adjusted. And she always makes time, just as she did before the pandemic, to talk with me about concerns I have or to tell me a funny story about something one of my sons did during the day. When I think about Jerelyn, I'm able to find strength to do the hard things.

Harriet McHenry


Nominated by Kay Miller, Minneapolis

The past two years have been hard on everyone, especially children. My 11-year-old granddaughter, Harriet, was schooled remotely for part of 4th grade and all of 5th grade. After she finished her online classes and assignments, Harriet used her spare time at home to watch cooking shows and peruse cook books. She then created cookies, cakes, breads and meals from scratch and shared her delicious creations with neighbors, friends and relatives to brighten their days. Together with friends and her 8-year-old sister, Eloise, she helped bake cookies for a bake sale in December that raised over $1,000 for families of children going through cancer. She also became a videographer — creating hilarious videos of her adventures in the kitchen. She truly made use of her time during the pandemic to make life more fun for many people who were very happy to enjoy her food and watch her videos. Just as important, she showed us that we are never too young or too old to work diligently to learn new skills.

Gordon Moen, Cedar Grove, Wis.

Nominated by Anne Stevenson, Fridley

Gordon Moen is my 99-year-old friend. Forty-five years ago, he was my ninth-grade science teacher. He's been influencing my life for a long time. Mr. Moen, who is a WWII veteran, offered an advanced earth landforms class to better challenge students beyond the usual ninth-grade science class. As a teacher, he had enormously high expectations, yet you also knew he would help you extensively if you didn't understand a concept. As a 14-year-old, I spent a lot of anxious late nights studying and writing papers that were college-quality. I am so grateful for all that I learned from him, not just about geology, the beauty of the earth and humans' impact on climate, but also about working hard, writing well and asking for help when needed. He influenced much of my current work with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and 4-H, where I develop STEM programming in our state and work on national STEM curriculum. We lost touch after he retired from teaching, but we reconnected about 10 years ago. I love that my work and passions support the same worthy goals he nurtured in my life.